Parenting, Finance, and the Problem with Books
More Every Week is a collection of surprising stories and counter-intuitive ideas.
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More Humane Parenting
If I lived in the Arctic Circle, I'd be mad pretty much all the time. There are no grocery stores, no heating systems, and it's really, really, cold. Anthropologist Jean Briggs spent nearly 30 years living with the Inuit people in the Arctic Circle, and she couldn't believe what she found.
No adults were ever angry.
If someone knocked over the fire, no yelling. If someone accidently dropped your fishing line in the ocean, no issue. The Inuit were spectacularly cool-headed.
After investigation, Briggs discovered their secret: the Inuit never, ever scolded or yelled at their kids. Since children never saw anger, they never became angry as adults.
So how do the Inuit discipline their children, if not with scolding? The answer: fear and role-play.
First, they scare their children into good behaviour with stories. For example, the children are told that if they go outside without a hat, the northern lights are going to take your head off and use it as a soccer ball. Or if they go too close to the water, a monster will reach out and take them away forever. This seems mildly sadistic to me personally, but I suppose yelling at a child isn't any better.
The role-play tactic is more playful, but requires much more patience. For example, if a child is hitting others, the mom may start a role-play by asking: "Why don't you hit me?" Then the child has to think: "What should I do?"
If the child takes the bait and hits the mom, she doesn't scold or yell but instead acts out the consequences. "Ow, that hurts!" she might exclaim. The mom continues to emphasize the consequences by asking a follow-up question. (e.g. "Don't you like me?" or "Are you a baby?"). This safe-space re-enactment teaches the essential lesson without any displays of anger.
I have no children and do not claim I'd be able to parent like an Inuit. But this seems like an obvious case where some cultural appropriation would be good for society.
More Dreams of Getting Rich Quick
How many times over the past few months have you talked about investments and money management with friends? Now think back 5 years - how often did you talk about money related topics then?
For most people, talking and thinking about finance has become the new normal in a phenomenon John Luttig has called “the financialization of culture”.
The two primary ways this financialization of culture manifests is in “lottery culture” and “equity culture”.
The former is the increasing drive to hit the lottery, either with crypto or penny stocks or whatever other high risk option you prefer.
The latter is the increasing drive to get equity, most often realised by young people’s desire to work at multiple startups and build a portfolio of stock options.
Ultimately, this is bad for society. As crypto and equities markets provide triple digit returns, people become more obsessed with taking risks. As startup employees hop from company to company building equity, no one sticks around long enough to actually solve the difficult problems the startups are trying to solve.
This will not end well, especially for the people who can least afford it.
More Skeptical of Learning from Books
If you read non-fiction books to learn things, you should read "Why Books Don't Work" [15 min read] by Andy Matuschak.
The argument is simple: Books are not a good way to acquire knowledge. You spend hours reading them, but a few days/weeks later you can only talk about the broadest points. And a year later you likely can’t even do that.
In school, we are often taught that people absorb knowledge by reading sentences or by listening to lectures. But the embarrassing truth is that this almost never happens. Books are built upon an educational philosophy called “transmission-ism”, which (wrongly) suggests that I can transmit knowledge to you just by telling you about it.
Of course, non fiction writing has other values beyond just knowledge transmission. But if you read more non-fiction books for learning purposes, I highly suggest you read the entire essay.
As a result of doing so, I'm going to be reading fewer non-fiction books and focusing more on online-classes that include activities, feedback, and active coaching.
For the non-fiction I do read, I'll be using Anki to make flashcards with spaced repetition to make sure I remember what I read.
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Thank you in advance!
"Pessimists are often right, optimists are often happy." - Unknown
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